“If all my customers would do this, I’d sell my leaf blowers.”
That’s what our neighborhood landscaper told me a few weeks ago when he had completed our leaf clean-up experiment. I hate the noise and pollution of gas-powered leaf blowers (GLBs) and voted for their phase out in Lexington. But, I also knew the transition to electric equipment might be hard for some small businesses. This landscaper had told me he was worried about what the phase out would mean for him. When I brought up the idea of raking as an alternative, he was skeptical, saying that it would take much longer and would end up costing homeowners a lot more.
My experiment had two parts: First, as a baseline, I asked him to give me a price to clean up the leaves from my backyard lawn. Importantly, I asked him to not remove the leaves but rather distribute them in neat piles under the trees and shrubs. Removing leaves from the site translates into a lot of extra effort. Once we’d agreed on that price, I asked him to use rakes instead of his ordinary equipment (GLBs). Our deal was his team would only work for as much time as he would have if he’d used his regular equipment.
On the appointed day, he arrived early in the morning with two helpers. The job took about an hour and a half. The result was neat and provided the needed light for the grass. Admittedly, it was not quite the unblemished “golf course” look we sometimes see in properties where all leaves are entirely removed during the fall. But, keeping sharp edges between the lawn and the leafy areas helped create something that in my mind is still pleasing to the eye.
Afterwards, we had a debrief on what worked and what didn’t. Our landscaper noted that he saved money by not having to pay for gas and not having to pay the $200 “tipping fee” for disposing the leaves off-site. Of course, this fee would be saved by leaving the leaves on site whether they used blowers or rakes. He also pointed to the fact that he was able to start earlier than usual because he didn’t have to worry about the GLB noise bothering the neighbors. He said his business requires that he do what customers want, and the solution of raking and leaving leaves won’t satisfy everyone. But if all his customers were like me, he claimed, he’d sell his leaf blowers tomorrow. That was probably an exaggeration, but this experiment gives me hope that there are ways to move towards environmentally friendly yard care that is neat enough to satisfy our neighbors and keeps landscapers employed.